Thursday, November 01, 2007

Pinch Punch, First Day Of The Month

Following on from the last post: Stylus Magazine has closed it's doors this week also, I have learned. Not as much of a blow to me as DavisDVD, but a loss all the same.

I was having a lesson about 'Negotiated Meanings' this morning, with my student James. We came around to talking primarily about two films - Blade Runner and The Matrix. One he loved and one he didn't like at all. Much to my dismay, it was The Matrix he loved. After we went back and forth about it for ten or fifteen minutes, with me pulling up all kinds of issues with the film, or all manner of defenses or new avenues of understanding Blade Runner, we finally got to the heart of what the lesson was supposed to be about, just not in the way I anticipated. James was now accepting that the plot of The Matrix appeared to make little or no sense, but still asked "Maybe we're missing something. I don't believe they'd make a film that makes no sense at all".

Well, they did. And they will continue to make such films. And people will continue to passively sit back and have them shovelled into their open mouths. But I hope James has come one step closer to believing that he shouldn't simply assume the filmmakers know better than he does. Thinking that the Wachowskis actually know entirely what they're talking about might be sweetly naive but it's just one example of why we're constantly peddled half-conceived, tangled and ludicrous guff.

Definitely not talking of which: the production of The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus is now officially official in a mentioned-in-Variety kind of way. They have no new information to share, sadly, but at least word of a new Gilliam film is spreading.

Other Variety stories from today tell us that the comic book Hyperactive is to become a film courtesy of MTV and Benmderspink; Jim Jarmusch's The Limits of Control is to star Isaach de Bankole and will film in Spain next spring with an 'internationally appealing' cast; Clive Owen and Julia Roberts are reteaming in Tony Gilroy's corporate caper-flick Duplicity, which sounds to me like a cross between The Water Engine and The Spanish Prisoner though, most likely, will be very little like either; Meryl Streep is to play julia Child for Nora Ephron, with Amy Adams in a supporting role; Richard Curtis has described The Boat That Rocks like this: Eight of the most extreme disc jockeys you've ever imagined having to live in a corridor, and a corridor that moved. And with no girls." I can't wait to hear the casting for this one.

I know there's a huge amount of fuss across the web at the moment because Spaced is to get remade for US TV. Here's the bad news: neither Edgar Wrigtht or Simon Pegg have been consulted which is, at the very least, rude; that Adam Barr, the scriptwriter hardly has a sterling resume with Will and Grace being his highest profile gig; that it's being remade for Fox, who are likely to be less willing tot ake risks or field esoteric material than the UK's Channel 4, home of the original.

And now here's the good news: Adam Barr is untested enough that, actually, he might have the right stuff. Who saw Buffy the Vampire Slayer lurking in the scripts Joss Whedon wrote for Roseanne? Nobody. And Greg Garcia's Yes, Dear fell far, far short of My Name is Earl - at least the good episodes of My Name is Earl. There's no way I'm coming down on McG, either - I think the Charlies Angels films are just fine, thankyou. Indeed, they're really rather good examples of their subgenre and show a wide bunch of capabilities, skills and sensitivities that get overlooked. And, in many ways, he shows a failry suitable outlook for a project like Spaced.

The original Spaced isn't going to go away and a remake can't actually taint it in any real way. What it could do, however, is be its own thing, a new series that takes Edgar, Simon and Jessica Hynes' work as a starting point before developing an identity of it's own. Let's wait and see how good or bad it is before we deem it (as some online voices have) the worst UK-to-US sitcom transfer ever. Surely it has every chance of being much better than Damon Wayans in Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em? Of course, that one isn't geek treasure, is it? Frank Spencer isn't going to get the spod army up in arms.

Despite being one of the best sitcoms of all time Spaced was nowhere nearly as good as people pretend, having several cop-outs, weak jokes and indulgent passages scattered amongst all of the really great stuff; Shaun of the Dead is probably even better than its reputation; Hot Fuzz was very good but had enough frustrating loose ends, distancing stylistic tics and confused elements to disappoint hugely. My point is: reamking Spaced should be considerably less controversial than remaking, say, Halloween. More controversial than remaking ET, perhaps - but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be allowed.

Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg are two of the best writers at work today and Edgar is one of the better directors but neither of them is so unfathomably masterful that I can't conceive of their work being untouchable. Like Whedon, Tarantino and Rodriguez before them, it seems like they have been elevated to godly status by a horde of geeks desperate for representation and identification, irrrespective of the quality of their work. When the backlash comes, I fear it is going to be cruel and harsh and utterly without rationale - but it is going to come, for sure. Just like it came for the others.

And, while we're still sort of on the subject, the US version of The Office is much, much better than the often tiresome UK original and I'll never back down over that argument.

This whole fuss reminds me of the age-old tussle about cover versions. For my money, I'd like the cover to be markedly different from the original - otherwise, why bother in the first place? A straight-up rehash is only one step away from overdubbing a foreign language film, in truth - it only gets done to serve up a castrated version to the lazy, ignorant or bigoted folk who won't bother with or are frightened of the different cultural phasing of the first version. Actually remaking something is like creating a sibling, a side version, a new beastie with new cultural roots of its own and while this often fails spectacularly, or is often an utterly pointless enterprise to begin with (*cough* Rob Zombie *cough*) , it certainly doesn't deny anybody a chance to see the original.

And before you complain that Spaced isn't available on R1 DVD, let me remind you that there's no excuse for not owning a multi-region player.

Postscript: I'd love to remake ET.


Unknown said...

There is an excuse for not owning a multi-region player. They're not generally available in the US (I bought mine in Canada). There are models that can be hacked, but the average movie watcher doesn't know how.

On another note, perhaps THE MATRIX just doesn't make sense to you. The rest of us understand it just fine.

Nice to see the "new" Film Ick is more of the same old douchey pseudo-snark.

Tyler Foster said...

The US Office still has the UK version to thank for many of its conceits, such as the documentary-style setup (which is considerably more "involved" in many of the jokes than the original) and the character plotlines/general story arc (namely Jim/Tim and Pam/Dawn). Spaced has far weaker similar elements, such as its pop culture parodies, to play off of into the show's backbone the way the US Office did, and if it can't stick to that, then what's left? Say what you will about the UK Office, but it's the uniquely universal plotting and characterizations that made the show a worthy transport, while Spaced's motley crew is much more silly and sitcom-esque. Not that I'm bashing Spaced, but the amount of things here to adapt with real everyman potential seem slim, or at least slimmer.

Brendon said...

So why didn't the robot things in The Matrix just kill all of humanity?

Please check out the third law of thermodynamics before you answer.

And that's just the beginning of where it comes undone.

Brendon said...

Multi-region players - that is, hackable ones - are widely available in many, many US chain stores. I've seen them there with my own eyes.

And they're cheap, too, if you aren't fussy.

Unknown said...

"Please check out the third law of thermodynamics before you answer" - how many times have you used this in a debate Brendon? ; )

Using the theatrical version of Blade Runner, why didn't the people crammed into the crowded city just get in their cars and drive into the country?

In the director's cut, they strongly allude to Deckard being a replicant. If so why use him to hunt down the others?

Surely the common issue is suspension of disbelief? I love both films but if you want to you can quite easily spoil them for yourself.

Brendon said...

We could forget the theatrical version of Blade Runner quite easily, but let's not and say this "Because they lived in the cities". Bit like today, really.

As for the issue of using a Replicant to hunt a Replicant... why NOT?

I agree that the suspension of disbelief is key, but Blade Runner makes a lot more sense than The Matrix, certainly on it's own terms.

Unknown said...

You failed to explain how the average movie watcher is supposed to magically hack their DVD player to make it region free.
Remember, a good portion of VCR owners back in the day never quite figured out how to set the time on their players. "Flashing twelves" wouldn't be able to hack a DVD player (a slightly more involved operation than setting a clock).

Entropy tapering while approaching absolute zero has fuck all to do with the plot of THE MATRIX.

For that matter, science really has fuck all to do with fantasy movies in general.

Have you sat down and thought about the physics of STAR WARS or LORD OF THE RINGS? You do realize that the Balrog simply couldn't stand on the bridge of Khazad-Dum without it collapsing (Of course, the Balrog, being partially made of smoke and flame would also consume himself before he got old enough to get out on the bridge anyway). And don't get me started on the failure of the lightsaber blade to continue for FAR longer than 3 feet before the laser tapered off...

For all the physicists who have consulted on the various incarnations of STAR TREK, the science is still more fantasy than fact.

Hell, by your statements about THE MATRIX making no sense, I'd love to see what you think about Scott's follow up to BLADE RUNNER...LEGEND. That's a movie based on magic. And magic violates the FIRST law of thermodynamics! FOR SHAME, RIDLEY! THOU HAS VIOLATED THE LAWS OF PHYSICS!!!

Sometimes, Brendon, you have to enjoy a movie as ENTERTAINMENT. And sometimes, that requires suspension of disbelief.
Remember the ad campaign for SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE?
"You'll believe a man can fly."
Did that drive you to distraction, while you stood outside the theater telling all the people in line that it simply wasn't possible?
Or is it just that you're such a bitter little failure of a man that you have to tear apart anything that doesn't agree with your tiny little tastes?

Rich D said...

There will never be as bad a UK to US sitcom adaptation as there was with the transformation of FAWLTY TOWERS into AMANDA'S BY THE SEA or whatever they called that Diety-forsaken show with Bea Arthur*.

Or at least I hope there will never be another show that bad.

*Who, come to think of it, does look a bit like John Cleese in drag.

Anonymous said...

I was with you right up until you started defneding the Charlie's Angels movies, Brendon. They're awful. AWFUL.

Anonymous said...

If they'd stayed true to the original source material (they pilfered Grant Morrison's seminal The Invisibles for the first film but got caught out) it would have made even less sense but then at least it wouldn't have turned out all shit and stuff.

Brendon said...

The difference between the science in The Matrix and in Star Wars is that The Matrix posits real-life scientific explanations and tries to cultivate a real-science real-world context. Star Wars has it's own rules.

The issue I was referring to revolves around the humans being used as batteries. And that has everything to do with entropy and it's 'behaviours'.

There's no pseudo-science raked up to talk about the Balrog, therefore no pseudo-science to take issue with.

And Superman's flight makes perfect sense in terms of the story. The flying around the world to go back in time does NOT and I do have a problem with that element.

Brendon said...

In an era where my sister uses google, the multi-region hackability of a DVD player is basically delivered on a plate.

Ignorance isn't an excuse. How did people find out about DVD players in the first place?

The bullshit corporate stranglehold on region codes is being perpetrated by apathy.

So, there's as much excuse to not get a multi-region DVD player as there is to buy clothes from sweat shops, vote for asshole politicians as opposed to their preferable counterparts, or to eat foot with dangerous levels of toxins in them.

Brendon said...

Spaced is, at heart, about flatsharing. That has massive everyman potential.